Comment sought on implementation of treaty for the blind and vision impaired

The Attorney-General’s Department is seeking comments on the best way to implement the Marrakesh Treaty.  The treaty aims to ensure the blind and visually impaired can obtain works in an accessible form, such as braille, large print or audio books.  Currently only between 3-7% of the world’s books are ever produced in accessible formats, a situation often referred to as the ‘book famine’.

Australia signed the Marrakesh Treaty in June, and the release of the discussion paper signals the next step in the process of ratification. Australia is largely compliant with the treaty obligations already, with declared organisations making accessible copies under a statutory licence and other organisations/individuals relying on the flexible dealing provision in s200AB.

The discussion paper outlines three options for implementation.

Option 1 – ‘Minor amendments’ keeps the basic domestic structure we currently have, with an amendment to ensure that accessible copies are exchanged only with other Marrakesh Treaty nations.

Option 2 – ‘Moderate amendment’ would extend the statutory licence to cover artistic works, so that declared organisations could deal with literary and artistic works (which includes things such as graphs in text books) under the same processes.  It would also streamline the licences, taking away much of the red-tape burden.  Section 200AB would still be used by other organisations and individuals.

Option 3 – ‘Flexible amendment’ would streamline the licences as in option 2 above, and introduce a ‘fair dealing’ provision for and by people with a disability, as recently recommended by the Australian Law Reform Commission.

The Department has also asked for feedback about the ability for people to bypass digial locks (TPMs) in order to make accesible copies.  They’ve also indicated that they are not confined to the three options proposed, and are receptive to other proposals. 

While the Marrakesh only covers the blind and vision impaired, commendably all the options canvassed would extend to other perceptual disabilities. 

The treaty will come into effect after 20 countries ratify, enabling the cross-border transfers between those countries.  Three countries , India, El Salvador and the United Arab Emirates have ratified to date, and we hope others, including Australia, will not be far behind.

Submissions close on Sunday 30 November 2014.